This year's Gonzaga Student Body Association (GSBA) has experienced a record low number of applications for senate positions, which currently has one seat filled and has led to GSBA to call a special election during this spring semester.
In order to pass bills, club funding and other things that affect the daily lives of GU community members, all 24 senate chairs need to be full, or at the least, reach quorum so that GSBA members can vote on certain changes.
Grace Edwards is serving her first semester as an elections commissioner for GSBA and acknowledged the bumps in the road that might have been part of the reason this year’s application turnout was exceptionally low.
“A big part of it, I think, was the placement of spring break in the election cycle which is kind of awkward,” Edwards said. “We came back and didn’t have a lot of time for our social media advertising and really get the word out about the positions.”
Reaching out to department heads, club presidents and faculty is what helped elections commissioners get eight candidates to campaign for eight of the open senate positions.
“We need 13 senators to hit quorum…We can’t do anything if we don’t have a senate and that’s why we had the special elections,” said Claire Booth, speaker of the senate for the 2021-2022 academic school year.
Booth said the low number of applications for senate positions isn’t necessarily something new, but the extent to which it’s happening this year is what’s shocking.
“Last year after our spring elections, we didn’t have enough senators for this academic year, so the previous senate had to pass the necessary bills to pass our GSBA budget and we need that for GSBA and also approving executive staff positions," Booth said. "Everyone in GSBA has been chosen by the student body, whether it has been by elections or through appointments because the senate has to approve of them."
The bills regarding GSBA’s annual budget and the approval of executive branch staff positions need to be passed in the spring semester to have things ready to go when students return to campus in the fall.
If the senate doesn't have a quorum before the fall semester, the senate won’t be able to pass any club funding request bills that exceed a certain amount of the budget. Any request that exceeds a certain percentage of the budget needs to be written into a bill before being passed by the senate.
Braden Bell, GSBA president for the 2021-2022 academic year, said that this is one of the biggest ways that this record low turnout can directly affect student life at GU.
“When it comes to clubs and club funding, that has to all be approved by senators, so if we don’t have quorum we can’t form new clubs or fund any clubs," Bell said. "That includes club sports."
Beyond club funding, the senate votes on bills that have the potential to alter the day-to-day lives of GU community members.
“Administration was asking us about door access on campus and how students feel about that and they asked me to ask the senate.” Bell said. “That just shows how important and valued senator voices are and how important it is to fill those positions and put as much effort as we can into filling them.”
Without the senate, Bell and other GSBA members cannot fully complete the duties of an associative student body member.
“[Accessibility for this position] was put into effect for this year's elections,” Booth said. “Anybody who has a desire to be a part of GSBA, they have the ability to run in the elections.”
The process of running for positions in GSBA has recently changed so that all participation fees and signature requirements have been waived.
“The senate is really like the main advocating voice for students on campus," Bell said. "Administration really takes senator voices seriously and they take GSBA opinion as a whole pretty seriously."
The polls are open for special elections until Wednesday.
All GU community members are welcomed by GSBA to raise any questions or concerns during the open forum or in the Center for Student Involvement in Hemmingson 304.